New “DEW” Line

During the Cold War, the Pentagon relied on an interlocking chain of radars across the northern frontier of Alaska and Canada to detect the early stages of a Soviet missile attack. Thankfully, the waves of Soviet ICBMs never came, but the detection system – known as the distant-early warning line, or “DEW” line – helped provide a measure of security and stability during the most anxious days of the Cold War. As America wades deeper into the global War on Terror, the Pentagon is preparing to employ some of the DEW line’s same principles in detecting biological attacks.

Using environmental-monitoring instruments to collect air samples and special software to collect massive amounts of data from hospitals, pharmacies and other healthcare providers, the Defense Department’s new medical surveillance system will attempt to track the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases before they reach epidemic stage. According to Paul Bergeron, one of the DoD's bio-terror experts, “In this game, 12 hours, 24 hours or 48 hours can make a big difference in treating people."

The Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency will play a lead role in administering the system. By detecting an increase in specific kinds of drug purchases, prescription orders and hospital visits, Pentagon planners hope the system will give public-health officials and the military a chance to counter the bio-terrorism threat. If such a system had been in place during the anthrax blitz in the fall of 2001, government officials might have been able to respond more rapidly and effectively. 

Still in the pilot stage, the $300-million program will use data from Washington, DC, Albuquerque, NM, and two other US cities that will be selected later this month. According to reports from United Press International, the remaining two cities will likely have mass-transit systems and major airports. Another deciding factor is location: The Pentagon is especially interested in coastal cities.

The View from Europe

In one of the most comprehensive surveys of European attitudes on US foreign policy in recent memory, the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and German Marshall Fund of the United States have unearthed some disturbing findings. According to the survey, which was conducted in six European countries, 55% of Europeans believe US foreign policy is to blame for the terror attacks of September 11. Ominously, 65% of Europeans believe the European Union should become a superpower on par with the United States.

However, not all the findings were so strikingly out of step with this side of the Atlantic. The survey found that Europeans view international terrorism as a serious problem. In fact, 75% of those polled support military action against terrorist bases. In addition, a sizable majority of Europeans (60%) would support a US-led attack against Iraq.

Published monthly in the American Legion Magazine, Under the Radar provides a snapshot of current challenges in international politics, U.S. foreign policy and national security.